Wednesday 27 June 2012

Eating for Athletic Fat Loss – Part 1

In a previous post on fat loss,  Priorities for Fat Loss, I stated that nutrition is by far the most important component in the fat loss process. Well, it is time to expand on that with some tips to help you lose fat.

1. Be realistic based on your body type, life priorities and goals While everyone can gain or lose fat and gain or lose muscle (and thus alter our appearance) we all have different body types. As a result, we will not all look the same. Many people make the mistake of expecting their diet and exercise program to turn them into the photo_shopped supermodel on the cover of a magazine (note the photo_shopped part – the model who posed for the picture does not even look like that). Like any fitness goal, your fat loss goal needs to be set in light of your other priorities, responsibilities and goals. Not everyone is going to realistically be able be ripped.
In the context of athletics, carrying extra body fat can negatively affect every other performance quality (e.g. speed, vertical jump, conditioning, etc.). It also increases your risk for injury. As a result, we want athletes for most sports to be lean. However because of differences in body type, the optimal body fat level for an individual athlete may differ. Remember to pursue healthy body fat loss to enhance athletic performance, not at the expense of it.

2. Stop drinking sugar (that includes juice and sports drinks)
Several years ago, one of our Spartan intern strength coaches came to me all excited. He had been training his brother on the side and proudly announced that his brother had lost 3 pounds that week. I congratulated him and asked what he did to get such great results. His response: “I got him to stop drinking pop.” Many North Americans pack away pounds of sugar each year in the form of pop, specialty coffees, energy drinks, ice tea, juice and sport drinks. Make water your beverage of choice and watch the fat melt away!

Note on juice: many people mistakenly think juice is a health food. While there are some health benefits to small amounts freshly squeezed (i.e. you just did it yourself – not that you bought juice from the store with “freshly squeezed” on the label) fruit and vegetable juices, you should not drink the stuff from the store. This has been pasteurized and as Paul Chek put it, is nothing but sugar water.

Note on sports drinks: many people drink these instead of pop thinking they are healthy because they have the word “sport” in the label. Not so. They are just sugar, food coloring, salt and a few other electrolytes. No one should use a sports drink outside of immediately before, during and immediately after intense training/competition. One trying to lose fat should use these only during and immediately after important competition.

3. Cut out the whites
This simple, but effective trick comes from one of my wise mentors Dr. Bill Luke. There are very few foods that are white that are effective on a fat loss eating plan. Cauliflower is the only one I can think of. Sugar, flour, bread, cereals, bagels, muffins, white rice, pasta and many other North American staples will all raise insulin levels which tell the body to store fat!

4. Eat clean, natural foods
When doing nutrition coaching, I don’t worry about calories until someone is making good food choices. Yes, calories are important, but because most natural foods are less calorically dense than processed foods, this automatically brings the caloric intake down. Also, natural foods seem to have a built in portion regulator. As I like to tell my students, no one ever says, “I don’t know what happened! I sat down with a bag of apples to watch a movie and before I knew it, the whole bag was gone!” The late health and fitness guru Jack LaLanne said it best: “If man made it, don’t eat it!”

5. Emphasize foods for fat loss
So what should you eat for fat loss? Charles Poliquin sums it up well: if it doesn’t fly, run, swim or is not green, don’t eat it! After the low-fat silliness of the 80’s and 90’s, many people still shy away from healthy fats and meats (which contain fat) and instead chose insulin-raising “diet foods” such as rice cakes, air-popped chips, and breakfasts cereals (e.g. Special K).
If I had to pick the best fat loss meal, this would be it
Meat, poultry, fish and eggs (in proper portions sizes) are excellent for fat loss. Protein helps to preserve/build lean muscle which keeps your metabolism up. Muscle loss and lowered metabolic rates are common in many fat loss programs that use low protein diets and emphasize cardio over resistance training. Protein also requires more calories to digest than does fat or carbs and this helps with increasing your total caloric burn for the day. Healthy fats (e.g. fish oil) improve insulin sensitivity and help you burn fat. Vegetables ease the body’s efforts to maintain optimal pH levels and thus optimize thyroid function. Whole, fresh fruits are okay, just do not over-do them as they are easier to eat more of than veggies and too much fructose can be problematic for fat loss. Berries are a good choice here.

Bonus tip for restaurant eating:
When going out to a restaurant, order a standard meal (e.g. steak, chicken, salmon) and ask for extra vegetables instead of the starch. After the Atkins craze, most restaurants are cool with accommodating this request.

Click HERE for part 2 of this post.


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  2. Nice post! I think it is very good way of reducing weight and avoid the rich food but I like it very much. I think these tips are helping me a lot for controlling my weight. I will try this food. Thank you very much friend & keep it up
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